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Friday, July 27, 2012
Synthetic Pores Emulate Nature
This is obviously extremely important and will become a major part of
out technology. Many protocols are worked with to deal with the
problem of purification but none approaches the efficiency of
biological process. Now we begin down that path. It is good news
and will see plenty of research effort now.
Maybe we can start with a simple device to purify sea water that
cannot clog up.
Too bad we cannot engineer a cellular creature that collects fresh
water in a bladder and then floats to the top of the sea water when
full. Perhaps a slime mold could be persuaded to do it all for us.
This is really off the wall.
However we are really getting just that good at working with nature
and our only limitation is our imagination.
mimic important features of natural pores
by Staff Writers
Buffalo NY (SPX)
Jul 18, 2012
These are atomic force
microscopy images of artificial ion channels created by scientists.
The images are of the same sample, with increasing magnification.
Credit: Bing Gong, University at Buffalo.
Inspired by nature, an
international research team has created synthetic pores that mimic
the activity of cellular ion channels, which play a vital role in
human health by severely restricting the types of materials allowed
to enter cells. The pores the scientists built are permeable to
potassium ions and water, but not to other ions such as sodium and
This kind of
extreme selectivity, while prominent in nature, is unprecedented for
a synthetic structure, said University at Buffalo chemistry professor
Bing Gong, PhD, who led the study.
The project's success
lays the foundation for an array of exciting new technologies. In the
future, scientists could use such highly discerning pores to purify
water, kill tumors, or otherwise treat disease by regulating the
substances inside of cells.
"The idea for
this research originated from the biological world, from our hope to
mimic biological structures, and we were thrilled by the results,"
Gong said. "We have created the first quantitatively
confirmed synthetic water channel. Few synthetic pores are so highly
To create the
synthetic pores, the researchers developed a method to force
donut-shaped molecules called rigid macrocycles to pile on top of one
another. The scientists then stitched these stacks of molecules
together using hydrogen bonding. The resulting structure was a
nanotube with a pore less than a nanometer in diameter.
can be viewed as a stack of many, many rings," said Xiao Cheng
Zeng, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Ameritas University Professor of
Chemistry, and one of the study's senior authors. "The rings
come together through a process called self-assembly, and it's very
precise. It's the first synthetic nanotube that has a very uniform
diameter. It's actually a sub-nanometer tube. It's about 8.8
angstroms." (One angstrom is one-10th of a nanometer, which is
one-billionth of a meter.)
The next step in the
research is to tune the structure of the pores to allow different
materials to selectively pass through, and to figure out what
qualities govern the transport of materials through the pores, Gong
The research will
appear July 17 in Nature Communications. The study's lead authors are
Xibin Zhou of Beijing Normal University; Guande Liu of Shanghai Jiao
Tong University; Kazuhiro Yamato, postdoctoral scientist at UB; and
Yi Shen of Shanghai Jiao Tong University and the Shanghai Institute
of Applied Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences. Other institutions
that contributed to the work include the University of
Nebraska-Lincoln and Argonne National Laboratory. Frank Bright, a